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Exchange Connections: Best of Show

Last week, I wrote about one particularly cool product I saw at Exchange Connections: NewsGator Technologies' NewsGator Enterprise Server (NGES). This week, I share a few impressions of other products and vendors that I saw at the show.

Overall, the most interesting thing to me about the show floor was the number of disaster-recovery and continuity solutions. Cemaphore Systems, Fortiva, MessageOne, Mimosa Systems, Neverfail, and XOsoft were all there, and their booths were generally well attended. This surge of interest from the customers might be explained as disaster phobia brought on by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Alpha, but I don't think so--these vendors have been building products for a while.

What I think we're seeing is the typical pattern for infrastructure services in a messaging market: an initial period in which one or two vendors own the space, followed by a sudden rapid bloom of competing solutions (the phase we're in now). What happens next is consolidation and failure. It's too early to pick winners in this space because it's so broad. There's clearly room for a variety of solutions at varying price points. Some organizations will want hosted services that do most of the thinking for them; others will want basic replication services that they can use inhouse to build their own procedures.

Cemaphore's MailShadow 2.0 demo intrigued me. The product offers mailbox-level replication by using an intermediate server, similar to the approach that Research In Motion's (RIM's) BlackBerry Enterprise Server product takes. The ability to keep selected mailboxes replicated to a functional mailbox server-?not just a warm standby server--is interesting. I didn't get to see the failover process, but when I do, I'll report back on how and how well it works.

If you doubt this pattern, take a look at the antispam and antivirus markets, which have few new entrants. Although I'm not aware that any specific vendors have failed, the writing is clearly on the wall when you look at what customers are buying and deploying.

In that space, Symantec has done something that I think is long overdue: The company has consolidated licensing for all three versions of its Mail Security for Exchange. You pay one license fee (per user, per year), which entitles you to run Symantec's software on your servers, use its hosted services, or use one of its hardware appliances. I applaud Symantec for offering this welcome degree of flexibility. (Mail Security 5.0 has some interesting new features, too, including full cluster awareness). However, if you want to use Symantec's appliances, you still have to buy them separately. Here's a thought: Why not give away the appliance with a 2- or 3-year service contract? The parts cost can't be that much (although it's more than the parts cost of the software). Symantec clearly expects to make most of its money through ongoing license renewals, and free hardware would seem like a good way to spur those renewals.

Feedback from attendees was great, too. I got several valuable suggestions and comments from people who were kind enough to take the time to ask questions about the material I presented. Connecting directly with readers is my favorite part of these events. Thanks to all who attended my sessions!

Finally, a personal note to show vendors: The idea behind giving stuff away at your booth is to spark attendee interest and visits. You do this by giving away something extremely valuable, doing something unusual, or giving away something unique. I bet there were 10 different booths all giving away an Apple Computer iPod nano. While the nano is a slick piece of gear, more variety might help you stand out from the crowd a bit more. Give it a try at the spring Connections show. I thought MessageOne hit a nice balance. Its "Wheel of Fortune"-style game offered iTunes gift cards as prizes, and it was a quirky and fun alternative to the usual "scan your badge" process.

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